When blackened tanks from a Hawthorne-made SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage rocket accidentally rained down onto an Indonesian island last year, the nation got a palpable encounter with a problem known as “space junk.”
Luckily, the rocket-propellant tanks that survived the white-hot burn of the Earth’s outer atmosphere didn’t hit any people or animals, even though one landed on a farm.
But the incident highlighted an increasingly worrying issue in the aerospace community: There is no global agreement to prevent and clean up debris left behind in orbit.
The Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit research-and-development firm in El Segundo, urged White House officials to seek an international data-sharing agreement to monitor orbiting human trash, during a Thursday Capitol Hill briefing the firm led on the matter in Washington, D.C.
“As Congress grapples with a thorny issue like this, having access to unbiased objective research is going to be important,” said Jamie Morin, executive director of Aerospace Corp.’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.
“There’s a major transition going on in the space economy. We have a whole host of new players coming in — new countries, new companies, and completely new business models, some of which are going to dramatically increase the number of objects in orbit.”